I like to think of myself as a foodie. Never mind the fact that I'm pretty picky and not exceptionally adventurous. Most of my grown-up celebrity crushes aren't movie or music stars. There are a few writers, but most of them are chefs. I dream of eating at amazing places and rubbing elbows with these amazing culinary artists. This year, my sweet brother decided to get me a gift certificate to Highlands Bar & Grill for my birthday because I had mentioned it was a place I would like to try. I will admit that, while I did want to try it, there was a little piece of me that was very nervous because I can be so picky. Plus, I like to plan ahead for new dining experiences. Their menu changes every day! We had our reservation about a week and a half in advance so that gave me enough time to check in on the menus for a few days and see what kept reappearing. I was pretty confident that I would have a meal I enjoyed and was excited when the time finally came.
We settled into our little table up front and enjoyed people watching, both inside the restaurant and out the window. I ordered a cocktail and Jeff got tea. Our waiter, Brian, was very nice. He gave us fabulous descriptions of some of the best things on the menu (which was almost everything!) so all of our planning and preparing was pretty much shot to heck because by the time he got done I wanted one of everything. The one thing I had planned for was the baked grits, and they were amazing. I can see why they are one of the "100 dishes to eat in Alabama before you die." I'm not a mushroom person but I did try them and while they were ok, they didn't seem to add that much in my opinion so I left most of them. Jeff had previously decided he just wasn't going to get an appetizer, but after hearing the descriptions he got the fried okra. He said it was quite good, but he liked mine better.
While we were waiting and talking and people watching, Jeff looked at me and said "I assume that guy in the white jacket with the thermometer in his pocket is the chef" speaking about an individual standing behind me talking to the maitre' d. I managed to maintain my composure and kept from doing the geek-tastic flip around, figuring it was probably not THE Chef Frank Stitt. When I casually looked over my shoulder I was surprised to find out it was HIM! I think my eyes bugged out of my head a little but I kept it together. Later in the meal I glanced out the front window and saw him walking toward the front door and I think I giggled a little. While texting my brother about the experience later, he asked "Did you tell him you're from Cullman too?" and I replied that I did not talk to him, which was probably best for everyone. I get star-struck very easily and generally get a bad case of the stupids when I open my mouth around someone I admire. I still count this as a successful interaction since we were in the same room and I didn't embarrass myself!
Dinner was out of this world. I originally had planned to order the ribeye and Jeff was going to get the red snapper. We were both kind of playing it safe and I think, in the back of our minds, thinking that we didn't way to pay that much for a meal we might not enjoy. Once again it was Brian the waiter to the rescue because, after his descriptions I decided to step out of my comfort zone and order the lamb. I have eaten lamb before, but never like this. I tried a bite of some my brother had once, and then I had some once when I was in England. This was nothing like either of those experiences or any other experience I've ever had. It was absolutely mind blowing! It kind of killed me to even give up a single bite to Jeff! Jeff got the pork chop, and while it was quite tasty, it was nowhere near as amazing as my lamb. There wasn't much in the way of conversation over dinner because we were both too busy chewing.
We probably should have stopped there, but I couldn't help myself when the dessert menu was offered. We decided to share the sorbet because I was mostly curious about the muscadine sorbet. I was pretty darn disappointed when there was no muscadine sorbet! The blueberry was a little sour, but the raspberry was good and the blackberry was my favorite. Still, I probably wouldn't order that again.
Still, this definitely ranks as the best meal I've ever eaten. I'm very much looking forward to a return trip in the not-so-distant future!